Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 17th, 2018

The Role of the Political Parties in DeepeningDemocracy in Afghanistan

Political parties are vital features of representative democracy. On the basis of a certain ideological worldview, political leaders organize their followers and ordinary people in the party, create opportunity structure for the redistribution of the cake between the classes coordinate their behavior, formulate strategies and programs, structure electoral choice, administer power, and exert pressure for desirable policy outcome. Afghan political parties that mainly arose out of democratic struggle have assumed these functions and played a crucial role in coalition-building and political transformation. To mobilize and represent the heterogeneous social and cultural landscape of the nation, they have framed issues, nurtured civic and human rights, fired people with the imagination of human condition and initiated structural change of the state, polity, and economy through bellicose enthusiasm.
Moreover, Afghan parties have also carried out political modernization and democratization through political education, social mobilization, staffing of leadership and aggregation, and articulation of public interest. By acting as a transmission belt and projecting societal interest into decision-making, they have performed effective communication functions between the political system and the citizens and proven political will and cooperative action for the restoration of democracy. They, however, appear weak to maintain a democratic dynamic between the inputs and outputs of political system, stoked over-expectation of the people and consequently face rationality deficit in performance while in the seat of government. Similarly, their clientalist networks, based on neo- patrimonial structures, have produced tension for the representational system and the process of political mediation. They also appear feeble to consolidate the state, “a state in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and utilize its power to reduce poverty, income inequality and political conflicts, and increase the scope of livelihood. Defining a single universe of democracy, peace, and development in Afghanistan is another central challenge to transcend their competing partisan lens.
The declaration of popular will is a key strategy of citizens to influence national politics, law- making, and development policies. Afghan parties as the institutional safeguard of people can deepen democracy if their leaders are capable of protecting the freedom, security, and dignity of citizens and creating a rule-based easy-access order. Afghanistan has a tremendous potential to unravel its energy for development—strategic geography, diverse topographical landscape, demographic dividends, hydropower, tourism, and cultural diversity. Deepening democracy entails the optimal utilization of these potentials for welfare-oriented programs for Afghan citizens with special emphasis on the weaker sections of societies so that they feel a greater stake in maintaining and sustaining the democratic institutions and a civic culture of tolerance of diversity bestowed by national heritage. In Afghanistan, however, in the post-democratic moment, due to high power dynamics, average people are mostly sidelined from democratic dividends.  
Expanding democracy in Afghanistan requires democratization of the inner life of parties and the utilization of its historically evolved national ethos that supports social pluralism. It is important to foster a culture of inclusion, listening, deliberation, and negotiation of conflict of interests, ideologies, and identities. Politics is public realm because it helps to produce a common ground for various partisan interests which tend to stratify the population in the binary code of “we” and “they.” National politics democratizes the public institutions through the negotiation of a post-conflict social contract which means leaders and citizens cannot act arbitrarily against the laws of the land. The subordination of every aspect of life to the imperative of politics is authoritarian because it undermines the checks and balances of power. 
Growth of a dense network of intermediary institutions provides political parties an opportunity to engage citizens in various walks of political life and increases their stake in democracy. Factionalism, split, leader for-life, dominance of hereditary elements, social and gender bias, network-based and vertical patron- client relationship characterize the political culture of Afghan political parties. These trends have encouraged the emergence of regional, ethnic, religious, and indigenous based parties which play with the politics of difference and impose obstacles for social and national integration.